I was technically on my second Day 30 when Dax Shepard released an episode of his podcast called “Day 7.” As soon as I saw this title of Armchair Expert, I knew what it meant and I knew that I was going to resonate and find comfort in whatever I was about to hear. So I set out for a long walk and pressed play.
I’ve always seen a lot of myself in Dax’s story. We both grew up in the metropolitan area of Detroit thinking that we weren’t smart, only to discover later that this was a complete and total fallacy. Somewhere along the way, we both developed substance use disorder and entered recovery. He had just celebrated 16 years without beer, wine, and liquor; I had just celebrated three. We both are in touch with the part of ourselves that deeply desires to be known and loved — adored even. And up until very recently, we both had been using an old storyline to hide behind the truth of what was really happening for some time now.
Unlike Dax, I am not famous. But I did draw attention to myself when I made a documentary about how my liver almost — but didn’t— fail due to a substance use problem that derailed my life, aggravated a pre-existing condition, and forced me to stop drinking.
Somewhere along the way, we both developed substance use disorder and entered recovery. He had just celebrated 16 years without beer, wine, and liquor; I had just celebrated three
Because I spent years destroying everything I touched, I had a desire to achieve some sort of equilibrium by doing the exact opposite, attempting to better every space I left. Making that film was part of this effort. Sharing it was, too. I then spoke on stages about my sobriety, posted inspirational captions to pictures on Instagram about my path to recovery, and had been the person others had pointed to as an example of hope that they too can change.
People told me I was brave. I was rewarded for being honest. And I found a sense of purpose and fulfillment by offering others support in my own unique way. As time went on, I felt that I couldn’t fuck up because I knew people were watching. But it was also becoming harder to remember the pain I had gone through to grow into the person I was extremely proud to be.
When I enthusiastically consented to be open about this experience in getting sober, I don’t think I realized that I willingly shackled my recovery to the judgment of my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers on the internet — and how I would experience “sobriety fatigue” later on. This sharing has helped me abstain from drinking wine, beer, and liquor. But it’s also the reason I started to say less as I found comfort in numbing behaviors more.
When I enthusiastically consented to be open about this experience in getting sober, I don’t think I realized that I willingly shackled my recovery to the judgment of my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers on the internet.
Like Dax, there was a portion of my recovery that seemed very pure. But I began venturing into gray areas.
It started with a cold and cough syrup. Once the cold was gone, I no longer had an excuse to misuse, let alone use, a prescription and over the counter medicine — so I turned to weed.
Eventually, being high became the only thing I could think about when I wasn’t high. I spent so much time telling myself that there wasn’t a problem that, in truth, that mental reassurance became my biggest problem. This, in addition to the erraticism of my behavior, felt reminiscent of the time in my life I nearly drank myself to almost liver failure.
I knew asking for help meant that I would have to admit to lying and gaslighting. I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment that I could highly value honesty and somehow struggle with it. I had become a person using a veil of perceived vulnerability to not be vulnerable at all. It made me feel like maybe I wasn’t actually a smart person — because I felt so dumb and disillusioned by my own bullshit, which perpetuated the cycle of self-harming behavior and self-hatred.
I knew asking for help meant that I would have to admit to lying and gaslighting. I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment that I could highly value honesty and somehow struggle with it.
Instead, I found ways to justify the unjustifiable and rationalize the irrational. Similarly to Dax, I stopped writing in a journal because I couldn’t be honest with it. I was filled with doubt and fear and anger and sadness. And I wanted nothing more than to give up in the fight against myself.
“Just do it, Andrea,” my addiction said to me. “Just drink. You know you want to. Just fucking end it.”
When I heard this thought, I knew if I didn’t address what was happening, things were about to get a lot worse. I knew I could not let the shame, embarrassment, and guilt keep me from seeking help. I first had to admit this to myself, and then humble myself to be able to admit this to everyone else. But I also knew things would start feeling better once I did.
This feels confusing because neither Dax nor I went to a bar, ordered a drink, and then proceeded to have a bender. But he did shed light on a definition of this experience I resonated with: “I have not been sober in the way I would like to be sober, where you don’t have secrets, and you’re not afraid to tell people about the gray area you’re going through.”
But he did shed light on a definition of this experience I resonated with: “I have not been sober in the way I would like to be sober, where you don’t have secrets, and you’re not afraid to tell people about the gray area you’re going through.”
So, I got sober again and had another “Day 30.” But I am going to continue celebrating the day I gave up alcohol. Because the moment I started down the path of self-betterment is the one that saved my life. The rest, well, that’s substance use disorder, which is not a black and white experience. It’s sometimes shady, and at times it’s gray. And I’m going to forgive myself for the missteps when dealing with this disorder because, with each one, I have learned something new.
When I struggle, knowing that even a few people are watching makes all of this extremely difficult. I’m sure having the eyes of millions, some who might even write articles about you, makes things even harder for someone like Dax.
So, thank you, Dax, for your honesty and vulnerability from a person who has been struggling with both. Your choice to be open at a time it would be easier to hide is something I took solace in. It’s something I’m inspired by. And I think it’s something the world needs more of today.
But what I found most comforting about “Day 7” was a sentiment reinforced by his co-host, Monica Padman: You are not loved because you are sober, because you are smart, because you are a famous actor who happens to be married to a more famous actress. You are not loved because you are a person who is selflessly using a platform to help the world better understand the complexity of addiction and recovery, ending the stigma around a widely misunderstood topic, making it feel okay for others to ask for help. Yes, you embody incredible traits and have done countless good deeds. But even on the worst days in your hardest moments — you are just loved. Period.